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Aviation District plan takes flight

Universal City means to transform ‘gateway’ to JBSA-Randolph

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UNIVERSAL CITY — A new vision for southern Pat Booker Road proposes landscaped medians and enhanced dining, retail, hospitality and entertainment venues just outside Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

That’s the basic concept of the Aviation District Masterplan, according to a document outlining the urban evolution for the Aviation Boulevard neighborhood near the gateway of the air base.

Several residents attended a presentation Aug. 13 at Northeast Lakeview College, while other stakeholders watched remotely.

Preceding the proposal was a year’s worth of analysis and collaboration among city staff, residents, merchants and property owners. AECOM, a planning and urban-design consulting firm, created the document.

An artist’s rendering looking east on West Aviation Boulevard includes landscaped medians. City planners want to add betterments to the busy corridor. Courtesy/AECOM

“The goal of the master plan is to provide a vibrant, public realm that is anchored with (a) well-defined town center, mixture of uses, life-at-night and open spaces around a major transportation corridor that encourages ‘walkability’ and a sense of community,” the executive summary states.

According to the report, Universal City’s landlocked status means local officials must look inward to tracts of potential redevelopment to spark renewal, meet the needs of a changing community, and better reflect today’s urban planning and design principles.

A section of Aviation Boulevard east of Pat Booker, a sliver west, and parts of adjacent streets have potential for such revitalization, according to town leaders.

Urban planners say improvements to the proposed Aviation District may call for upgrades to buildings, as well as improving access for pedestrians and bicycles. Courtesy/AECOM

City Manager Kim Turner reminded the audience of the Pat Booker improvements project, a three-year, $10 million revamp that bettered both infrastructure functionality and aesthetics along the corridor.

The city’s Economic Development Corp. followed up by implementing a storefront-improvement program where commercial, professional and retail building owners may apply for reimbursement for upgrades to their roadside properties.

Aviation District plan officials, Development Services Director Michael Cassata and Turner believe this could prompt the next stage of economic growth along Pat Booker, based on current and projected real estate data.

The idea envisions building upon the district’s existing retail and commercial spaces with more residential options, live entertainment and small gathering spots, pocket parks and public squares, all within a walkable distance.

Turner told listeners it would take time for market forces to help realize the plan’s long-term vision.

“Our hope tonight is that you’ll embrace the program and go on this little venture with us as we make the next move to make the Aviation District what it needs to be — a vibrant, economically viable district in our city,” she added.

Steven Duong, an AECOM designer and urban planner, called Pat Booker a “gateway from many different directions.”

“You want to create a destination with a gateway that’s an attractive experience,” Duong said, “something that will not only lend itself to folks working at (JBSA-Randolph) but those coming in from outside communities.”

The land is zoned for retail and commercial services, with a mix of existing residential developments. However, the city’s current zoning has few options for mixed-use.

Another challenge in the study area’s commercial sector is the many small lots and multiple property owners, both of which likely won’t entice developers otherwise interested in larger-scale development.

According to the consultants, about 65% of its structures were built before 1968 and may need near-term rehabilitation or replacement.

They also said lot coverage in the residential parts of the scrutinized area is 10% on average, which could lure investors and developers looking to diversify housing stock and commercial space.

The report points to well-connected roads and small block faces in the Aviation neighborhood. However, the advisers also suggested that roadway infrastructure must be upgraded to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Duong said many of the underused parcels in the vicinity are ripe for activation with developments, which complement each other and the surrounding region.

“We also want to leverage the fact that Pat Booker is a significant corridor in your community,” he told audience members, “and it not only has the ability to move folks to the base, but also bring people to this part of Universal City.”

Duong and Chris Brewer, AECOM’s vice president of economics and advisory, said any redevelopment must consider current residents and obstacles, such as the railroad running parallel to FM 78.

There’s also the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone, which guides development near Randolph, where military pilot trainers are instructed.

“It’s a complex area, but one we’re sensitive to in terms of our recommendations,” Brewer said.

Find out more about the plan at http://uctx.gov/1138/Aviation-District-Masterplan.

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